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Here's a months worth of blog posts, all at once. I've been busy, as you'll see below. Including converting my PhD dissertation from academese into something more like reading, and preparing it for publication by Lambert Academic Publishers in Germany. More on that here soon. But for now, I'd like to begin with a quote from Nicholas Slonimsky, who in 1980, I had the good fortune to interview. (Info on the great and wonderful Nicholas Slonimsky: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Slonimsky.)  Here's the quote - it says it all:

In the past month, I've been finding some interesting sounds, and one of the first things I've been doing with them is trying to extend them, or stretch them in some way. In early December, we made a trip to Melbourne, and as a treat to ourselves, stayed at the Shizuka Ryokan in the Victorian spa town of Hepburn Springs. This is a genuine Japanese-style Ryokan (country inn) complete with Zen garden, beautiful Japanese cuisine (the Kyoto-style breakfasts are a treat), spa tubs, and a completely peaceful environment. No tvs or phones in the rooms, and no cell-phone reception or internet either. To "unplug from the Borg," as I called it, even for a couple of days, was really lovely. The website is www.shizuka.com.au for those of you interested in checking it out. While there, we not only went to Hepburn Spa for the amazing mineral baths there (just a few hundred meters away), we also availed ourselves of the smaller, but still luxurious spa-baths in our room. And here was a delight - while draining the spa-tub, it made the most amazing gurgling! I even broke my vow of no digital technology for the time there, and whipped out my little portable sound recorder and recorded it. Here's the sound, all 2 and 1/2 minutes of it:



The sound of a spa-tub draining at the Shizuka Ryokan, Hepburn Springs, Victoria


A few days later, as we were leaving Melbourne, we spent the morning at the Melbourne Zoo, enjoying their new ocean exhibit. If you're in Melbourne, do go - it's marvelous. And whoever did the sound design deserves an award. Wonderful. Catherine took some pictures including this one of a peacock:




Peacock photographed at Melbourne Zoo, early December 2009, by Catherine Schieve


and then showed me how the zoom works on the display of her camera, zooming in on the central feathers at the base of the peacock's tail. I immediately thought - "Oooh, that would make a good score for something!" I thought of Nicholas Fournel's free AudioPaint program (http://www.nicolasfournel.com/audiopaint.htm) which allows you to use graphics as a "score" to play a sample, and which also allows you to use Scala files to play those samples on any microtonal scale you want. It occurred to me that the peacock tail closeup might be a neat score to spread excerpts from the gurgling around in an interesting manner. Why? Who knows why these juxtapositions occur? They just do.


On returning to Wollongong, other things happened, and I didn't get around to listening to the Ryokan gurgle recordings for a while. Finally I did, and also treated the peacock closeup with a graphics program so that the majority of it would be black (ie, silent) making a score for use in AudioPaint.


Peacock tail photo closeup treated with "tone-curve" plugin to get musically useful score


I had already decided that if I was using the Ryokan gurgle sample, I didn't want it played more than one octave higher or lower than the original, so I set AudioPaint to play over a 2 octave range (you can set any range you like), and that I would have the samples played in Erv Wilson's 64-note Euler Genus microtonal scale. So two octaves at 64 notes/octave = 128 notes. I made my Peacock Tail Score 128 pixels high. (Again AudioPaint allows any combinations of scale size versus pitch range versus picture size.) One of the neat things about AudioPaint's treatment of samples is that, like an old fashioned sampler or reel-to-reel tape recorder, lower pitches play samples slower, and higher pitches play samples faster. This means that if there are 128 possible pitches, each one will be playing the given sample, as a loop, at different speeds. You can get quite interesting time dispacements of gestures from your sample in that way. If you're using a long sample, like the Ryokan gurgles, with lots of gestural change in it, this means that your visual score should produce quite a variety of gesture and transposition. And it does. Here's the completed 5 minute piece - "The Ryokan Gurgle Processed by Peacock Feathers." Enjoy!



Warren Burt: The Ryokan Gurgle Processed by Peacock Feathers - Dec 18, 2009


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